T Nation

Bench Press Plateau


Hi Guys,

I posted this a few days ago in the beginners forum, but have had no response.

I'm looking for a bit of help. I've been training seriously for the last 6 months or so.
In that time I've made good gains.

On all my major lifts: Deadlift, Bent Row, Overhead press, Pulldown etc I am still making gains.
I have one movement though that is really starting to annoy me, as I have reached a plateau. That move is the Bench press.

My one rep max has been stuck at 270 for 2 months now.

I work on a routine of 4 sets of 6 reps per exercise. I have been stuck using 242 for my work sets for weeks now. I seem to always miss reps, so am getting things like 2 sets of 5 reps and 2 sets of 4 for example. When I miss the rep targes like this, I will drop the weight to 220 at the end and rep out. Usually for 6 or 7 reps.

I think that my problem is the first couple of inches of pressing off of my chest, and that I have disproportional strength in my triceps, as I can close grip 220 for an easy 6-8 reps, while I battle for every rep on the Bench Press.

So, I guess my question is: What can I do to help the first part of the press? I can't use dumbell presses, as the dumbells in my gym are not heavy enough.

Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance for your help.


Try to change your set/reps up a bit. Instead of going for 4 sets of 6 reps try jim wendler's 5/3/1 program. Working up to a 5 rep max the first week, 3 rep max the second week, and 1 rep max the 3rd week. Also you can try variations to the bench press.. Decline, Incline, Floor Press, Board Presses, Rack Lockouts. Hopefully this helped.


I think that a change, as suggested by cttballer23, could help.
Specifically targeting the bottom end of the rep, though, I would try paused reps. Once the bar hits your chest, let it stop, without losing your form or tightness. This will eliminate momentum, negate any bounce that you might use to get back up into your strength and make it a "dead" bench press. It will emphasize the area you're concerned about.
Also, if you have a way to do them, dips will help. Just make sure that you're angled/leaned far enough forward to make it more chest-centric and that you get adequate depth, being mindful not to over stress the shoulders with too much depth.


you might want to try taking a week off of bench. you might just need a break. Another thought is your "antagonist" muscles. Do you do face pulls? How about Kroc Rows? If the antagonist and supporting muscles are not strong enough to bear the weight, they won't allow you to bench it, even if your "bench" muscles are strong enough. Read Allwyn Cosgrove's article on core strength from earlier this week, and consider what he says in terms of your bench.

a couple weeks of doing dumbell bench might help too.


I won't recommend a specific program, but I'm a firm believer in a programming change. Nothing huge, Sets-reps-% of any given rep max. I don't like changing exercises too much. I will rotate exercises that have worked for me, but some lifts just don't do a thing for me.

I am also a huge fan of unloading weeks and weeks off.

Nothing but good advice given so far by MJ, Strick and baller.


Thanks Guys,

In answer to some of your suggestions:

mjnewland: I have an enforced week off at the moment due to work, so we''l see if that helps. I don't do face pulls, but work very hard on my bent rows. Currently doing 4 sets of 6 with 225, as my work sets on the bench are 242, I don't think that this is disparity enough to worry about. (Open to someone elses opinion on this)

CT and Danjo: I too, don't really like changing exercises much, but I am thinking that maybe a change in the routine would be helpful, so I'm having a look at Wendler 5/3/1. Thanks.

Strick: I tend to bench with a slow negative, and not bounce the bar for momentum, but I'll definitely keep in mind the paused reps.


First things first are you wanting a bigger chest or bigger numbers ?

If you want your chest bigger - do dips with a real good stretch at the bottom.
If you want your numbers bigger look at your form on the bench.
Are you flat chested while benching? Squeezing your blades together ?
Do you have a arch? Do you push way from the bar? Do you squeeze the bar together ?
Do you tuck your elbows in?
How wide do you go in relation to your close grip ?

Just some questions :slight_smile:
Watch videos of powerlifters benching for examples from a good site like Elite fitness for proper form.

Or post a video for critique.



Based on your OP, I assume you are doing straight sets (4 x 6 at 242 lbs)? Have you tried a ramp/pyramid? So something like this:

185 x 8 - 10
215 x 6
240 x 2

...then go for 275? Not sure what your goals are, but since sticking to a protocol such as this after only doing straight sets, my weights have been going up steadily in all of my major lifts.


Hi Fischer,

In answer, I'm trying to get stronger, so in relation to your points, I guess its my form I could look at.

I do squeeze my shoulder blades together, and keep my lower body tight. This gives a bit of an arch, but not massively exagerated. I try to keep my elbows tucked, but they have a tendancy to stray out a bit.

I have relatively short arms, so my grip is with my little finger on the rings on the bar. When I do close grip my middle finger is on the edge of the knurling on the bar.

Now for some questions:
I'm relatively new to this so sorry if the question is silly.
What do you mean by 'squeezing the bar together'??



Thanks Tyler. I'll add this to the armoury of great info i'm getting from this post.


You are probaly too wide on your bench grip shorten it in a bit.

On squeezing the bar together means when benching as you are pressing the bar you are also putting pressure as you are trying to touch your thumbs together - make sense ? It helps activate the pectorals .


So, its like trying to do a dumbell flye isometrically?? I'll give it a go.


I've always recommended "spreading/stretching the bar", like your are trying to pull the bar apart. It helps to keep the shoulder blades tight together (retracted). Also squeeze the shit out of the bar, literally squeeze hard with your hands.


Thats when you are trying to activate and learn how to fire your triceps more. squeezing them together activates your pectorals more.



Well it's been a while since I started this post.

I must admit my consistency has'nt been great over the last couple of months due to a lot of travelling with work (when I travel with work, its usually to places with no gyms.)

However, I took on board a few of the things people said, and I have been using WS4SB recently to change my routine.

So, back at the end of July I was using work sets of 242, with a 1 rep max of 270. Well, today I did an easy triple with 275, and then did a very solid single with 285.

If I had been in the gym more consistently it may have been better, but I'll take this progress so far, and just wanted to thank you all for your help.